On 20 July 1976 the Warsaw District Court sentenced to various terms of imprisonment (up to five years) seven participants in the workers’ demonstrations which took place on 25 June in the tractor-producing plant “Ursus,” near Warsaw. The purpose of this mass demonstration, one of the most impressive to have taken place in Poland, was to protest against drastic price increase. The trial was conducted under conditions which violated the principle of openness of judicial proceedings. Only the close relatives of the accused were permitted to be present; entry to the courtroom was totally prohibited to the foreign journalists, numerous intellectuals, and students who wished to attend. The accused workers were charged with “active participation in acts of hooliganism.” There were only officially-nominated defense counsel.

At the same time another trial took place in Radom. The participants in the mass demonstration there were sentenced to terms of up to ten years in prison. And the Polish press has announced that further trials are to take place.

We consider it our duty to denounce the official condemnation of the workers’ protest against unjust social policy and the government’s authoritarian methods as “acts of hooliganism.” It is necessary to state emphatically that the responsibility for the violation of law during the events in Ursus and other places rests with the authorities, who have abolished the elementary forms of workers’ democracy, have destroyed the “workers’ councils” created in 1956, and have reduced the Trade Unions to a fictitious, dead organization completely subordinated to the ruling apparatus. In order to avoid a repetition of such dramatic events in the future, it is imperative to restore to the workers rights which are properly theirs, and not to resort to repression.

The political struggle of the Polish people for these rights, previously manifested in the numerous protests against the recent changes in the Constitution, is a struggle for democratic socialism, a socialism defined by Karl Marx as “the very opposite of the situation where man is humiliated, an abandoned slave held in contempt.”

We are only too aware that Polish public opinion cannot hear our voices through normal channels, but we are convinced that we express the feelings of the majority of the population. That is why we are addressing ourselves through your journal to all those who are fighting for workers’ rights which are an integral part of human rights.

We are making the following appeal: help the imprisoned Polish workers! The information reaching us from prisons and courtrooms demonstrates that the security police are using methods of physical violence during the interrogations. Moreover, it is generally known that the workers suspected of having taken part in the demonstrations are sacked en masse from their jobs; such dismissals endanger their own and their families’ material existence.

We appeal to: Jean-Paul Sartre, André Malraux, Pierre Emmanuel, Louis Aragon, Jean-Marie Domenach, Claude Roy, Jean Daniel, Laurent Schwartz.

We also appeal to: Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, Arthur Miller, Saul Bellow, Eugenio Montale, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, and Robert Conquest.

We appeal to all who feel solidarity with the struggle of the workers the world over for the liberation of labor. Demand the release of imprisoned Polish workers!

Stanislaw Baranczak, poet; Jacek Bochenski, writer; Kazimierz Brandys, writer; Stefan Kisielewski, journalist and writer; Andrzej Kijowski, journalist and writer; Ryszard Krynicki, economist; Jan Jozef Lipski, literary critic and historian; Adam Michnik, historian; Halina Mikolajska, actress; Marek Nowakowski, writer; Julian Stryjkowski, writer; Father Jan Zieja; Edward Lipinski, economist.

from Liberation, Paris, July 28, 1976

This Issue

September 30, 1976